An Employer Brand Problem that FREE BEER can’t solve

I think one of the fairly unscientific but still decent ways of maintaining a feel for an industry, location, or professional discipline is to keep and eye on posted job advertisement activity. Whether it is trolling the career pages of your competitors to see what kinds of roles they are hiring for, (as well as the volume and velocity of their postings), or tracking the place where you live, (or would like to live), and keeping an eye on openings in your field or potential opportunities for advancement – watching job postings for me has always been an interesting exercise.

Certainly if you are a recruiter, you should probably have a feel for what your competition is up to, (or at least is publicly recruiting for), and as someone that cares about your career, even though you may never actually apply to and get a job directly from a published job ad, the background, color about the health of the job market, and overall trends that published job ads help illuminate should be a factor in your overall career planning. And last, if nothing else, looking at online job ads offers the occasional opportunity to share an opening with a friend or colleague that might be looking for something new. There aren’t many better pay-it-forward type favors you can do for someone than turning them on to a great new job.

So over the weekend one of the local job alerts I subscribe to alerted me to this opening – a local spot as the VP of HR at a mid-size brewing company. While I am neither in the market or particularly qualified to be the VP of HR anywhere the ad was pretty notable for a couple of reasons. One, my local area, Rochester, NY isn’t exactly teeming with VP-level openings in HR; and two, working as the VP of HR in a brewing company sounds like a pretty cool gig, at least on the surface. After reading over the job, my initial reaction was to Tweet out the link, maybe drop it on LinkedIn too, maybe someone I am connected to on either of those networks might be interested, or a good fit, or know someone – you get the idea.

But before I hit the ‘Tweet’ button, I wanted to check out the company a little bit first, since I was curious and I really don’t know much about them, despite them sharing two of my main interests – beer and the Rochester area. Indeed, (where I first saw the job), didn’t have much to offer in terms of reviews, (only one), and discussion forums, (none), so I hopped over to the go-to source for this kind of thing,

On Glassdoor I found, (admittedly from a very small sample size), company reviews that had comments like “Job candidates are misled to believe that there is a team-based environment”, “Threats and disrespectful behavior is the norm”, and “Most people would leave in a heart beat if the job market in the beverage biz was any better.” One reviewer even went as far to state “Free beer, but not even worth it.”

Sure, there were a couple of positive reviews mixed in, but the overall approval rating of the CEO was at 50%, and only 33% of reviewers would recommend the company to a friend. Think about it, how bad does your experience have to be with a company that offers ‘FREE BEER’ as a perk to not feel comfortable recommending it as a place to work to a friend? I want to think FREE BEER can make up for a lot of transgressions, after all, it is the only method anyone has to get their buddies to help them move.

I don’t mean to unfairly pick on this company, I don’t know anyone there, and have never had any dealings with them (other than buying the occasional product). I personally don’t know what kind of environment exists there, and whether the majority of reviewers on Glassdoor are accurate and fair in their assessments. But I do know that I and anyone else that might be considering applying for said VP of HR job, would naturally want to learn a little more about the company before inquiring or applying – heck I wanted to learn a little more before even Tweeting out the link to the job ad. (Which I didn’t after reading through the reviews on Glassdoor). And it could be that the climate is so bad there that the new VP of HR will have a great opportunity and challenge to change the company. Maybe. But for me, it was hard to get past the initial reaction from the almost universally bad reviews. I couldn’t even Tweet the job in good conscience.

Look, I know you, the sophisticated reader of FOT, doesn’t need to be reminded of the importance of the employer brand and how crafting and managing said brand has become a really important element in your overall recruiting strategy. But (sadly), not everyone in HR and Recruiting is as sophisticated as you, and shockingly not all of them read FOT (yet).

So share this post and story with your colleagues, (and maybe even your company leaders), if you are willing, and share the main takeaway from the tale – You know you have a branding problem when FREE BEER can’t even solve it.

FOT Background Check

Steve Boese
Steve Boese is fondly known to many as the HR Technology blogger. By day, he is the Co-Chair of Human Resource Executive's HR Technology Conference. He is also a former Director of Talent Management Strategy at Oracle and an HR Technology instructor. Steve can also be found hosting the HR Happy Hour Show and Podcast … you know, where a bunch of HR pros get together and call in to talk about HR stuff. Sounds like an SNL skit, we know. But when you have Dave Ulrich, the grandfather of HR as show guests, well, I guess you’re doing something right.  Talk to Steve via emailLinkedInTwitter or Facebook.


  1. Tatiana Beale says:

    Interesting story. I think the ‘FREE BEER’ example just shows that now matter how many fancy bells and whistles a company claims to offer their employees, there is no replacement for a healthy culture and strong employer brand. Companies must offer these perks and benefits, like free beer, to stay competitive with the employer marketplace, but if the culture is lacking, then the company has way bigger problems. I would agree, a company with negative reviews on may be a big opportunity for any VP of HR…but the employer brand is a deterrent.

  2. I am curious to find out what blog platform you have been working with?
    I’m experiencing some small security issues with my latest website and I would like to find something more safeguarded.

    Do you have any recommendations?

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